Studies in Leadership: Leadership and Democratic Action

By Alvin W. Gouldner | Go to book overview

Informal Opinion Leaders and a National Election1

BY PAUL F. LAZARSFELD, BERNARD BERELSON , AND HAZEL GAUDET

THE NON-VOTERS represent the low point in political participation. The high point is illustrated by the people most active in a presidential campaign--the "opinion leaders." Common observation and many community studies show that in every area and for every public issue there are certain people who are most concerned about the issue as well as most articulate about it. We call them the "opinion leaders."

The opinion leaders of a community could best be identified and studied by asking people to whom they turn for advice on the issue at hand and then investigating the interaction between the advisers and the advisees. It is obvious that in a study involving a sample, like the present one, that procedure would be extremely difficult if not impossible since few of the related leaders and "followers" would happen to be included within the sample. As a substitute device, however, we can identify the opinion leaders and the followers within our panel, without relating them directly to one another.

At about the middle of the campaign, the respondents were asked these two questions:

"Have you tried to convince anyone of your political ideas recently?"

"Has anyone asked your advice on a political question recently?"

All those people who answered "Yes" to either or both of these

____________________
1
Reprinted from The People's Choice, by Paul F. Lazarsfeld, Bernard Berelson , and Hazel Gaudet, Duell Sloan & Pearce, 1944. Copyright, 1944, by Paul F. Lazarsfeld . Used by permission of the author.

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